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Castells (2009) on global communication and cultural change

March 23, 2010

Castells, Manuel (2009) Communication Power. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199567041

116 Lash and Lury (2007: 3-5) suggest that in 1945 and 1975 cultural objects still exceptional around the globe, but by 2005 they are ubiquitous. “In global culture industry, production and consumption are processes of construction of difference.”

117 How do people construct such difference? asks Castells. The answer: along two bipolar axes: (1) the opposition between cultural globalization and cultural identification, (2) the opposition between individualism and communalism.

117 Is the world becoming culturally more homogeneous? Yes and no, but mostly not. Cultural and religious differences still pronounced. 118 That said, there is indeed a global culture operating at 3 levels:

(i) cosmopolitanism among a global minority of mostly affluent and young people

(ii) hybridised and remixed global culture, e.g. remixed YouTube videos, indigenised hip-hop, etc.

(iii) culture of consumerism

118 The result is a ‘complex pattern of interaction between global consumerism, cosmopolitanism, and global hybridization on one hand, and diverse sources of cultural identification (national, religious, territorial, ethnic, gender, self-selected identities) on the other (Inglehart et al 2004).

118-9 The other axis is opposition individualism vs. communalism. This will vary across countries, e.g. in USA holy trinity of values is “Me, my family, and my God”. By contrast, in Catalonia 56% of respondents said family came first, followed by ‘myself’ and peers.

119-21 Combining the two bipolar axes of cultural identification we get the following four intersections:

1. Individualism and globalisation -> branded consumerism

2. Individualism and identification -> networked individualism

3. Communalism and globalisation -> cosmopolitanism

4. Communalism and identification -> multiculturalism

121 Although there’s no single medium for each combination, we can say that the global entertainment industry with its huge array of products goes hand in hand with branded consumerism. 123 On the other hand, global media networks (CNN, BBC World Service, Al Jazeera…) match cosmopolitanism, albeit with regional variants, 124 and ‘local’ cultural industries feed multiculturalism which is the norm not the exception around the world. 125 Finally, the culture of networked individualism is best expressed via the Internet, online games, wireless comms, etc., i.e. via ‘the diverse universe of mass self-communication’.

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